For health professionals
Has a patient asked you about voluntary assisted dying? Are you considering becoming a voluntary assisted dying practitioner? This page will answer your questions.
On this page
Voluntary assisted dying laws have passed in all six Australian states. Find out about the law in your state here.
Medical professionals are central to the operation of voluntary assisted dying in Australia. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists all have important roles to play.
So far, a relatively small number of doctors have completed the mandatory training to become VAD practitioners - but for those that have, it has been overwhelmingly positive, despite the additional work.
I didn’t expect it, but seeing patients for VAD has been absolutely game changing for me... satisfaction far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced.'
There are four main roles for healthcare professionals, consistent across all states:
Coordinating practitioner (doctors only)
This is the first doctor who assesses eligibility and supports their patient through the entire process, including receiving the final request for VAD and, in some cases, administering the medication.
Consulting practitioner (doctors only)
This is the second doctor who, independent from the first doctor, also assesses the patient’s eligibility. Every request for VAD must be approved by two doctors.
This is the person who gives the life-ending medication intravenously if the patient is not able to take it themselves (or does not want to, an option in WA, QLD, NSW and Tasmania). It can be the coordinating practitioner, or in some states, a nurse practitioner or registered nurse.
A small number of pharmacists dispense, deliver and educate about the VAD medications through centralised Pharmacy Services in each state. Hear more about becoming involved in the process from Nikki, a VAD pharmacist in Western Australia.
VAD practitioners need to have minimum qualifications and experience. Each state law also requires practitioners to do mandatory training before they can accept a request from a patient to assess their eligibility for VAD.
Visit your state’s health department website to find out more:
|New South Wales
Yes, nobody has to become a VAD practitioner. Australia’s laws protect the right of health professionals to opt out altogether (known as conscientious objection).
Others may decide they are OK to provide general information, but not play any larger role in VAD – that’s fine too.
Regardless of the level of involvement, VAD is challenging. But many who do step forward say it is one of the most fulfilling things they have done in medicine.
We were so grateful to our GP for having stuck by us. His support and openness made all the difference.
It was just a privilege. I learned a lot from that patient about courage, about respect.
– Dr Phillip Parente, medical oncologist and VAD practitioner, Melbourne
I've gotten a lot out of it. And I know the patients and the families have because they've told me so. There's no doubt in my mind, it's a very bonding experience.
– Dr Andrea Bendrups, general physician, Royal Melbourne Hospital
Why this doctor changed his mind about voluntary assisted dying
'When one of my patients dies, I don't see it as a failure. If I've made that journey better, I've done my job.'
'We've seen gentle, beautiful deaths'
Fiona Jane manages a community hospice in WA’s Great Southern region. She shares her experiences of voluntary assisted dying since the state’s law came into effect in July 2021.
‘It’s a new system and there are still some challenges’
Dr Sarah Pickstock, a palliative care specialist in WA, shares advice for doctors considering providing voluntary assisted dying.
'I was a late convert to the voluntary assisted dying'
General disease physician Dr James Hurley shares his experience as a VAD practitioner in Victoria.
Implications for advance care planning
Health professionals and services engaged should do more to prepare for discussions about voluntary assisted dying (VAD), a new research paper suggests.